The Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL) under the Ministry of Health has started sickle cell screening for all newborn babies as a move to combat sickle cell-related deaths due to late treatment.
According to Mr Charles Kiyaga, a biomedical scientist and the national coordinator for the Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) programme at CPHL, the programme has so far started in eight districts across the country.
Children born in districts of Jinja, Lira, Oyam, Kitgum, Gulu, Tororo, Dokolo and all KCCA health centres in Kampala District, Mr Kiyaga said, are screened for sickle cells. “We have not set up the services in other districts (as) we still lack resources to buy the reagents,” he said.
The laboratory, according to Mr Kiyaga, has a capacity of 500-1,000 tests per day at a cost of Shs10,000 per test. The CPHL is, however, expected to be shifted to Butabika in Kampala in two months’ time, where its permanent structures have been set up.
A research conducted last year by Makerere University College of Health Sciences showed that at least 12,283 (13 per cent) of 90,000 sampled people tested positive for the sickle cell trait, which causes sickle cell anaemia. Another 664 had the condition. The same research also indicated that in every seven people, at least one has the sickle cell trait and out of every 150 people, at least one has the condition.